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Kyle On: Inspiration Behind the Otomi Pattern

Mon, August 21, 2017

As you may have seen in a few of our product designs for our Kitchen + Home Collection, a fun Otomi pattern has made its way into a few of our product designs. There’s a funny story about how I was inspired to create this pattern that starts all the way back from our wedding and honeymoon. Planning our honeymoon, Warren and I knew we wanted to go to a beach because it’s our favorite place to vacation. We chose the One & Only Palmilla Resort in Cabo San Lucas after Warren’s sister and brother each went there on their honeymoons and recommended it - we decided to follow suit.

While there, we enjoyed the resort so much and were needing a little R&R after five months of wedding planning and a busy work season, we only ventured out for only three meals the whole trip. One night, we ventured over to a neighboring village to explore a bit before finding a spot to eat dinner. We went into a little shop that was filled to the brim with Otomi pieces - I had a hard time restraining myself from buying enough to re-upholster everything in my house! I decided on a large tapestry with multi-colored, yet solid colored animals featured because it was a unique technique that I hadn’t seen often - usually you see one solid color piece or each animal is multicolored in itself. I also purchased a Euro Sham for our master bedroom and a few coasters for gifts.

After I returned home and unpacked, I researched the history of Otomi - which made me love the pieces even more. Otomi is traditional embroidery that adorns the clothing of local women (also called Tenago embroidery) and can be traced back to it’s Spanish and Aztec roots. In the caves close to Tenago, Mexico are drawings of birds and animals, which are said to have been the inspiration for this embroidery. Prior to the 1960s, the colorful and elaborate designs were reserved for attire, but a severe drought caused an economic decline in the area. The Otomi people then started creating these textiles to sell and support themselves during the recession.

Once home with my new purchases, the next tough decision to be made was where to put them in my house? The Euro Sham went right on our master bed. My mom suggested stretching the tapestry like a canvas and hanging it on the wall. I took it to a local art gallery, Signature Gallery, to pick out a frame and hung it right in our living room as a statement piece. I absolutely love seeing it every single day - I know it’s something we will have and cherish forever.

Right around the time I got back from our honeymoon we were right in the middle of the product design process for the following year’s product line (we design products almost 18 months before you get to see them!) and I knew I had to incorporate my love for this pattern into the line somehow. I wanted to honor the originators by maintaining the technique and original shapes but re-draw the shapes to fit onto the pieces we were designing. I applied the Restored Retro color palette to my version of the Otomi illustrations and also snuck it in to the Neutral Nouveau palette as well for you neutral lovers. I can’t decide which I prefer!

- Kyle Johnson Smith 

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